The Seattle Restaurant Crisis


You may not have heard of the Seattle Restaurant Crisis, unless you are a regular consumer of rightie media. In which case you would know that restaurants in Seattle are going the way of video stores, or dinosaurs, or something, because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour.

Except that isn’t happening. The Sky Valley Chronicle reported,

The blogosphere has once again proved itself to a be fertile source of false news that projects outward as fact at the speed of light.

A March 17th report by the Seattle Times says it found a blogosphere-spread rumor masquerading as fact that recent Seattle restaurant closures may have been linked to the city’s new $15 minimum wage, was false.

The report says an article that made its way into Seattle Magazine (called “Why Are So Many Seattle Restaurants Closing Lately?”) suggested that the city’s newly approved $15-an-hour minimum wage (to be phased in over years) was a factor in some recent Seattle restaurant closures.

That article then caught on fire and was touted as factual in the conservative blogosphere, with the Washington Policy Center (which calls itself a “think tank”) asserting that “Seattle’s $15 wage law a factor in restaurant closings.”

From there the not-real-news flashed over into a veritable forest fire of condemnation in the conservative media with the conservative American Enterprise Institute claiming that,“Seattle’s new minimum wage law takes effect April 1 but is already leading to restaurant closings and job losses.”

That was followed by elderly conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh, not exactly known in most journalistic circles for being a hotbed of factual, non-biased material jumping on the bandwagon followed by the New York Post running an article called called “Jobless in Seattle.”

Then Forbes chimed right in with,“We Are Seeing The Effects Of Seattle’s $15 An Hour Minimum Wage.”

To Forbes’s credit, it also published a story by Rick Ungar that pooh-poohed the whole thing.

But that was last month. This month Think Progress followed up and confirmed that (a) Seattle restaurants are opening and closing and the same rate they opened and closed for years; and (b) those that closed did not cite the minimum wage hike as a factor.

High-profile writers confidently proclaimed that Seattle’s once-proud restaurant scene was in retreat and that the wage hike was already chilling business activity and killing jobs, based on one anecdotal report. None of that was true. When the Seattle Times asked them about the story, the restaurant owners in questionlaughed off the claim that their decisions were motivated by the wage law. But even that direct testimony didn’t stop the media wave all the way. The conservative National Federation of Independent Business ran a post parroting the disproven restaurant closures claim days after the Times debunked the anecdote underlying the narrative.

Now, there’s even harder evidence that the right was wrong. The Big Picture pulled the numbers on how many restaurant permits have been issued by the city each month going back to the start of 2012. The chart shows plenty of ups and downs – what data scientists call “noise” – but the 12-month average for permits is almost perfectly steady…

A couple of restaurants had added a 2 percent “Seattle Ordinance Wage Equity Surcharge,” but canceled this when customers objected.

However, the facts hardly matter, and you can be sure that the wingnuts will continue to tell themselves that every restaurant in Seattle has closed or is about to, and ha ha those stupid libtards are stupid.  You know the tune, I’m sure.


Senate Dems Wimp Out Again

Obama Administration

The bill approved unanimously by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday may be “watered down,” but it still puts limits on President Obama’s ability to reach an agreement with Iran. And Iran didn’t waste any time griping about it.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday dismissed pressure from the U.S. Congress over a preliminary deal on the Islamic Republic’s contested nuclear program, saying that Tehran is dealing with world powers — not American lawmakers.

In a speech to tens of thousands of Iranians in the northern city of Rasht, Rouhani said his nation is pursuing a “dignified” agreement with the six-member group, which includes the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

I found an article that said “Executive agreements have been used for more than two centuries. According to a February report from the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. has concluded more than 18,500 executive agreements since 1789.” What makes this executive agreement special? Wait, it’ll come to me …

Some people, including Meteor Blades at Daily Kos, are calling the bill a “clear White House victory.” But I still think it stinks. The New York Times editorial board thinks so, too.

With a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill that would require Congress to review, and then vote on, the final text of a nuclear deal. It would also prohibit Mr. Obama from waiving economic sanctions on Iran — the crucial element of any agreement under which Iran rolls back its nuclear program — for at least 30 days, and up to 52 days, after signing an agreement so Congress has time to weigh in.

The full Senate and the House will have to approve the bill. But the committee’s action gives momentum to those who have bitterly criticized Mr. Obama for negotiating with Iran, though they offer no credible alternative to the preliminary deal on the table. Republicans who control Congress have largely been the driving force behind the legislation, but this bill was passed overwhelmingly by the Senate committee thanks to Democratic support. …

… The nuclear deal is the product of a multinational negotiation with Iran conducted by the United States, France, Britain, China, Germany and Russia. In no other country has a legislative body demanded the right to block the agreement. Even if Congress barred Mr. Obama from waiving American sanctions, the European Union and the United Nations Security Council could lift the sanctions they imposed, thus undercutting the American decision.

Does anyone here think that Senate Republicans would give any deal — I repeat, any deal — a fair hearing? That they won’t try to obstruct it just because? That Cruz, Cotton et al. plus the Faux News crew won’t demagogue the thing to death and make blocking it a litmus test of True Conservatism?

Senator Barbara Boxer said that while she believed the original proposal would “disrupt and upend” the negotiations, “I believe this new bill will not do that.”

I don’t see why the hell not. The original bill was unworkable, but this one still leaves room for plenty of mischief.


The Wonder Weenies and Sharia Law

Obama Administration

Cities across the United States have been taken over by Islamic extremists and have enacted Sharia law! Never mind the phantom no-go zones in Europe, we have phantom no-go zones here, too! Or at least that’s what a speaker said at the apparently ongoing NRA convention in Nashville.

Dearborn, Michigan is completely lost, of course.

The street signs suddenly went from English to Arabic. There wasn’t a single English word on any shop or any street sign. And in fact, these little yellow signs were posted all along the edges. Jeremy said to me, ‘this is it. We don’t go past this line.’ And I said to Jeremy, ‘what do you mean? You guys are Detroit Metro. You’re the SWAT team. You can go anywhere you want. What if you get a call over there?’ He said ‘this is it, it’s hazardous for our team if we go past this line.’

I have seen it with my own eyes, witnessed it in the backseat of a car and it is for real. No-go zones exist in the United States.

Dearborn, Michigan is not the only place that these settlements exist. They are spread out over the country in various cities. There’s an estimate of over 5,000 known terrorist cells in the United States.

There’s an estimate of over 5,000 known terrorist cells? If they are “known,” why do they have to be estimated? Or is this a government secret? Reminds me of —

“I have here in my hand a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”

— and sixty-five years later, no one have ever seen that list. That’s how devious the government is. Then the NRA speaker continued,

However our most persistent and significant threat, right now, to us here today this morning, is the homegrown violent extremists.

… including the speaker himself, I take it, and probably several members of the audience. But it turns out he wasn’t talking about those homegrown violent extremists.

Tarani also warned that the country’s “porous borders” are letting extremists and terrorists into the United States. “It’s possible that at least 20 percent of what comes over that border — that’s a big number, guys — is Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ethiopian al shabaab, known gang members and supports of the cartel,” he said, warning people to arm themselves to respond to threats before law enforcement can.

Yeah, just what we need, mobs of armed yahoos shooting at everybody who crosses the border. What could go wrong?

(The Zen Center is right next to an actual Muslim neighborhood here in Brooklyn, btw. There are Islamic libraries and schools and prayer rooms. I know this because I walk past them on the way to the Target.)

You may laugh, but Serious People have learned there’s an ISIS training camp west of Ciudad Juárez, a few miles from El Paso. This is “according to Judicial Watch sources that include a Mexican Army field grade officer and a Mexican Federal Police Inspector.” Because Mexicans have no sense of humor and wouldn’t make up stories like that to ridicule some gringo whackjobs. Would they?

The Mexican Army field grade officer and Mexican Federal Police Inspector were later reported as “Mexican officials” who “confirmed” there’s an ISIS training camp across the border from Texas.

During the course of a joint operation last week, Mexican Army and federal law enforcement officials discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as “plans” of Fort Bliss – the sprawling military installation that houses the US Army’s 1st Armored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation.

Oh, those naughty prayer rugs! They aren’t even bothering to disguise themselves as soccer jerseys this time.

Mexican intelligence sources report that ISIS intends to exploit the railways and airport facilities in the vicinity of Santa Teresa, NM (a US port-of-entry). The sources also say that ISIS has “spotters” located in the East Potrillo Mountains of New Mexico (largely managed by the Bureau of Land Management) to assist with terrorist border crossing operations. ISIS is conducting reconnaissance of regional universities; the White Sands Missile Range; government facilities in Alamogordo, NM; Ft. Bliss; and the electrical power facilities near Anapra and Chaparral, NM.

“Mexican intelligence sources” meaning some guy named Jesus who knows another guy named Jorge who swears his cousin heard it from some other guy, no doubt, all of whom were struggling to report these things with a straight face.

I wondered if Charles Pierce knew anything about this, and apparently not. However, it turns out that Sharia Law is threatening Idaho.

In brief, the state legislature there killed a measure that would have brought Idaho into compliance with federal law regarding federal support for child care, and for the enforcement of child-support agreements, and you are not going to believe why they did it.

The conflict started last week after a House committee narrowly rejected a bill that had sailed through the Senate. The vote came after state Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, a Cottonwood Republican, testified that federal regulations incorporated an international agreement regarding child support payments that would subject the state to Sharia law. None of the nearly 80 countries involved in the treaty — the Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance, which the U.S. entered in 2007 — is under Sharia law. But Nuxoll and other skeptics said some involved nations informally recognize Sharia courts. They added that Idaho wouldn’t have the authority to challenge another nation’s judgment.

I think you have to pass a stupid test to be a legislator at any level any more. Candidates are put out in the rain, and the ones who come in are disqualified.


Grant Versus Lee

American History

Going back to Appomattox — Jamelle Bouie has an excellent article at Slate that I urge people to read. Bouie is spot-on correct in both his historical facts and his analysis of how we remember Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant the way we do.

From the end of the Civil War and through the rest of the 19th century, U.S. Grant was one of the most popular and respected figures in American life and history. According to many accounts, his death in 1885 threw the nation into the same depth of grief as had the death of Abraham Lincoln. People around the country donated money to build him a grand memorial tomb, and when it was dedicated in 1897 there was a huge parade and vast crowds of people turned out to pay their respects once again.

On the other hand, R. E. Lee’s generalship was more flawed than confederate apologists will ever admit. Some time back the British military historian J.F.C. Fuller wrote an analysis of the generalship of Grant and Lee, and Fuller found Lee highly overrated. In Fuller’s view Lee was second-rate in most regards. (Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship is still in print and is very readable. If you’re into military history I recommend it highly. See also Fuller’s The Generalship Of Ulysses S. Grant.)

But a few generations later, people remembered Grant as a stupid, drunken brute and Lee as nearly a saint. Bouie explains why and how that happened. Much of it has to do with Grant’s policies as President during Reconstruction, namely that he took equal rights for the freed people seriously and tried to protect them. Bouie writes,

As best as possible, President Grant was a firm leader of Reconstruction America. Faced with the titanic challenge of integrating freedmen into American politics, he attacked the problem with characteristic clarity and flexibility. He proposed civil rights legislation (and would be the last president to do so until Dwight D. Eisenhower, nearly a century later) and deployed troops to hot spots across the South, to defend black Americans from white supremacist violence.* And while there were failures—at times he was too passive in the face of white violence, too paralyzed by petty politics—there were real victories too. After Congress passed the Enforcement Acts—criminal codes that protected blacks’ 14thand 15th Amendment rights to vote, hold office, serve on juries, and receive equal protection of laws—Grant authorized federal troops to confront the Ku Klux Klan and other groups of anti-black terrorists. Declaring them “insurgents … in rebellion against the authority of the United States,” Grant and his subordinates—most notably Attorney General Amos Ackerman and the newly formed Department of Justice—broke the Klan and restored some peace to the Republican South.

In using federal power to prosecute white supremacists and support Reconstruction governments, Grant had tied his fortunes to those of freedmen and their allies. They were grateful. Grant won re-election in 1872 with the vast backing of black voters in the South, as well as former Union soldiers in the North. Appalled by his use of force in the South, his enemies dogged him as an enemy of liberty. Indeed, for as much as scandal plagued his administration, it’s also true that many cries of corruption came from angry and aggrieved Democrats, who attacked military intervention in the South as “corrupt” and “unjust.” Opponents in the North and South reviled Grant as a “tyrant” who imposed so-called “black domination” on an innocent South.

Unfortunately, in the early 20th century some confederate sympathizing historians got themselves into leading positions in American academia and saw to it that history as cranked out by scholars of the day reflected their biases. In the latter part of the 20th century some historians began to turn this around and correct the record, but much of the correction hasn’t trickled down to primary and secondary education or undergraduate history classes.

The Gone With the Wind version of Reconstruction history, in which poor destitute Scarlett O’Hara was reduced to eating raw radishes (from the garden she still owned next to the mansion she still occupied), apparently because the “servants” had run away and she had never learned to cook, is still being foisted on schoolchildren around the country. I have found young people who still believe that Reconstruction was “punishment” for the South because of the Civil War or because Lincoln was assassinated, or some such thing.

The truth is that the freed people were being terrorized and slaughtered wholesale by white mobs, sometimes by the hundreds. Freedmen frequently were shot for trying to vote. In one particularly horrible massacre in New Orleans, 1866, whites —  including police and city officials — stormed a peaceful political convention of people who wanted to end the black codes, killing 238 people, mostly African American.

General Grant, who in 1866 was something like the Joint Chiefs of Staff in one person,  had stationed Phil Sheridan in that district to keep the peace. Fake reports of violence in Texas drew Sheridan out of New Orleans, allowing the massacre to take place. By all accounts, Grant was furious and suspected Andrew Johnson’s administration of being complicit in the fake reports.

And that’s why President Grant ordered troops into the South. It had nothing to do with “punishing” anybody for Lincoln’s Assassination.

The best history of Reconstruction is Eric Foner‘s, but recently when I recommended Foner to some young folks on the Web they dismissed him as a “socialist.” So, because they don’t like his politics — which they probably don’t understand — they assume his history is bunk. Never mind that other historians regard him as the preeminent historian of the Reconstruction era of his generation. Thus are the ignorant kept ignorant.

Lee was a complicated guy whose choice to fight with the Confederacy was possibly more motivated by restoring family honor than defending slavery. The Lees of Virginia had been patrician and prominent for generations. But Lee’s father, Revolutionary War hero Light-Horse Harry Lee, somehow spent the fortunes of two wealthy wives — gambling and other vices are hinted at — and when Harry was in debtor’s prison Lee’s mother took toddler Robert and his baby sister to live with her wealthy family near Arlington. So he was raised in the plantation class but wasn’t entirely of it, since he had no inheritance or property of his own. At the same time, an older half-brother, a son of Light-Horse Harry by his first wife, got into some sort of big, splashy sex scandal, I believe with his wife’s sister. I suspect that what really motivated Lee was a need to prove he belonged in the patrician class he had been born into. Note also that R.E. Lee married into the Custis family, descendants of Martha Washington by her first husband.

Confederate apologists like to point out that Lee never owned slaves, but the fact is Lee never owned much of anything except through his marriage. But he married into a slave-owning family and appears to have not minded that.

Let it not be forgotten that when African American troops were captured by his army, saintly Robert E. put them to work building fortifications where they were within range of Union fire. White troops, on the other hand, were traded for Confederates in prisoner exchanges. Grant and Lincoln both felt that soldiers were soldiers and should be treated alike, and when Lee refused to exchange black prisoners the prisoner exchanges stopped, causing much human misery for which Grant and Lincoln, but not Lee, have been blamed.

One more note about Grant’s alleged drinking — that’s the one thing people know about Grant, was that he was a drunk. But these days historians say otherwise. There are some credible accounts of binge-drinking when he was a young officer stuck on the Pacific Coast away from his family, but the stories of his drinking during the Civil War mostly come from one uncorroborated source, or have been proved to be unfounded. The one fact about Grant all his biographers agree on is that his marriage was very happy, which is not generally the case with alcoholics. Accounts of White House dinners suggest he was able to drink a glass or two of wine and then stopping, which is not generally the case with alcoholics. So let’s put the “Grant the Drunk” slander to rest.


Campaign Vaporware?

Democratic Party

So HRC announced her candidacy today, as expected. We’ll see how it goes. Here is the video she released as her announcement:

It’s okay. Do I buy it? Um …

Nice analysis by Bill Curry.

On Friday, Clinton’s campaign let slip its aim to raise $2.5 billion; maybe that’s not the best way to say hello to a struggling middle class. Someone gabbed about the message of Hillary’s planned sit downs with average families, a sure fire way to make the families look and feel like props — and to make the whole, hollow exercise look and feel like a hollow exercise.

There are three problems that go far deeper than Hillary’s image or her campaign’s operations. Each is endemic to our current politics; all are so deeply connected as to be inseparable. You already know them. The first is how they raise their money. The second is how they craft their message. The third pertains to policy.

To get the money they think they need candidates who crook the knee to moneyed interests. They spend vast sums on polls, focus groups and data mining to find out what messages to send and to whom, and vaster sums to send them. The need to serve their donors keeps them from solving real problems. With so little to show for their service, they must rely even more on paid propaganda. The emptier their ads, the more of them they need.

Curry goes on to say that this works great for Republicans, most of whom want to maintain the status quo and are happy to be lied to.  But here Curry really nails it about Dems —

The opposite is true for Democrats. When they truckle to the status quo, they break sacred vows. Their base feels most betrayed , but everyone notices and no one likes what they see. Convinced by their consultants that politics is all about metaphors and emotion, they treat issues as landmines and do everything possible to avoid stepping on one. They skip real debates to pursue what Obama consigliere David Axelrod calls ‘the politics of biography.’ Trading real reform for public policy vaporware, they lose all sense of purpose — and eventually stop making sense.

Yeah, pretty much.

Barring a Jeremiah Wright-level crisis, a presidential candidate gets just two or three chances to make her case to a big audience. Her announcement is often her best shot. That Hillary passed on hers is unsettling. If she thinks she doesn’t have to make her case real soon she’s wrong. If she thinks she can get by on the sort of mush Democratic consultants push on clients she’s finished. On Thursday the Q poll released three surveys. In two states, she now trails Rand Paul. In all three a plurality or majority said she is ‘not honest or trustworthy.’ You can bet the leak about her $2.5 billion campaign will push those negatives up a notch.  …

… If she raises all that money it will ruin her. Fundraising nearly ruined her husband in 1996. He didn’t need all the money he raised then and God knows she doesn’t need all the money she wants to raise now. Even if raising the money doesn’t land her in hot water, if she spends it the way most Democrats do, that will ruin her.

Interesting. Thoughts?


America the Obstructed

American History

Timothy Egan on Lincoln:

Now think of the legacy on this anniversary of the American passion play. Think of free land for the landless, the transcontinental railroad, the seeding of what would grow into national parks, the granting of human rights to people who had none. …

… But beyond: Could the Republicans who control Congress in 2015, the party of no, ever pass a Homestead Act? That law, which went into effect the very day, Jan. 1, 1863, Lincoln’s wartime executive order to free slaves in the breakaway states did, carries a clause that very few Republicans would support now.

Former slaves, “famine Irish,” Russian Jews, single women, Mexicans who didn’t speak a word of English — all qualified to claim 160 acres as their own. You didn’t have to be a citizen to get your quarter-square-mile. You just had to intend to become a citizen.

In that sense, the Homestead Act was the Dream Act of today. It had a path to citizenship and prosperity for those in this country who were neither citizens nor prosperous.

Consider the vision to stitch a railroad from east to west, an enormous tangle of infrastructure. In 1862, Lincoln signed legislation spurring construction of the transcontinental railroad. That same year, he approved a bill that led to the creation of land grant colleges.

And so on. He also signed a bill that allowed California to protect the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoias from being developed by private enterprise. President Ulysses S. Grant would later make Yosemite Yellowstone the first National Park in the history of the world.

All these things were essential to building the United States into the economoic powerhouse it would become in the 20th century. And Egan’s point is that today’s Republican Party would have just obstructed all of it.

Today, Congress will not even approve enough money to keep decrepit bridges from falling down, and has whittled away funds to help working kids stay in college. It’s laughable to think of Republicans’ approving of something visionary and forward-looking in the realm of transportation, energy or education. Government, in their minds, can never be a force for good.

And then there’s this:

The great, nation-shaping accomplishments of Lincoln’s day happened only because the South, always with an eye on protecting slavery and an estate-owning aristocracy, had left the union — ridding Congress of the naysayers.

There’s a lot of truth in that. The 19th century Democratic Party was anti-progressive. They not only favored slavery and later Jim Crow laws; they were also opposed to the role the federal government played in getting the railroads built. A lot of them reflexively opposed spending tax money on infrastructure projects, I have read.

The parties switched positions in the 20th century, so now the Dems are the progressives and the Republicans are the obstructionists. The point, though is that in the 19th century for a time the nation was able to invest in itself, and it became more prosperous thereby. Today’s Republicans like to warble about exceptionalism, but their policies are rendering the U.S. nothing but an exceptionally crappy place to live.


The Road to Enlightenment Is Paved With Glitches

Obama Administration

The monastery internet conked out yesterday noonish, leaving me cut off from EVERYTHING. Seriously, I went into withdrawal. Talk about attachment. Fortunately I have a 4G phone and could check emails, but couldn’t get into the admin page here, for some reason.

So now I’m “working” in the Reinaissance Java Cafe on Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn. Anybody in the neighborhood, come on down. I may be here most of tomorrow. Fortunately they serve food.


Appomattox Plus 150

Obama Administration

Today is the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox. It’s important to remember these things.

It’s also important to remember them correctly. Here are Grant’s recollections as recorded in his memoirs.  Grant had a remarkable capacity for not hating people, and it would be like him to feel sympathy for Lee at the surrender. Later that day, according to other accounts, he encountered the Confederate General James “Pete” Longstreet. The pair had been close friends for much of their adults lives. It’s said that upon seeing Longstreet Grant immediately suggested they get together a game of cards, as they used to. Longstreet burst into tears.

Grant forbade loud celebrations along the Union lines and arranged for a dignified ceremony for the surrender of flags, with (by then) Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in charge. Grant’s sensitivity and generosity of spirit had a lot to do with why armed rebellion more or less stopped, at least against the Union. It is a slander of Grant to suggest he did these things because he recognized Lee to be the better general or that he knew the Union victory was somehow illegitimate; he thought no such thing. He was the better general, and he knew it. So have said a lot of military historians, including some British military historians who could look at the Late Unpleasantness with more objectivity.

It’s said that the victor writes the history books, but that’s not what happened in the U.S. Historian Elizabeth Varon explains how southerners twisted the events around in history books to soothe their own egos. So much about how the Civil War and Reconstruction are remembered in popular history is a load of crap.

I’d like to write more on this later, but I need to go do some Zen stuff.


Who’s Got an Identity Problem?

Democratic Party, Obama Administration, Republican Party

Republicans still assume that the only reason Barack Obama became POTUS is that he is black, because all those non-Republican voters are into “identity politics” and are attracted only by gimmicky candidates, i.e. racial minorities and women. A non-gimmicky candidate would, of course, be a white man.

Along these lines, Josh Kraushaar writes that Democrats have an “identity problem.”

The question of the moment—as the competitive GOP field grows larger by the day—is why Hillary Clinton is barely being challenged for the Democratic nomination. And the answer lies within the changing nature of her party. …

…  the main reason why Clinton is a near-lock for the nomination is that Democrats have become the party of identity. They’re now dependent on a coalition that relies on exciting less-reliable voters with nontraditional candidates. President Obama proved he could turn out African-American, Hispanic, and young voters to his side in 2012 even as they faced particularly rough economic hardships during a weak recovery. As the first female major-party nominee for president, Clinton hopes to win decisive margins with women voters and is planning to run on that historic message—in sharp contrast to her campaign’s argument playing down that uniqueness in 2008.

Do you remember that HRC “played down” her gender in 2008? I sure don’t.

It’s part of why freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren inspires excitement from the party’s grassroots, but former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose progressive record in office set liberal benchmarks, isn’t even polling at 1 percent nationally. It’s why Sherrod Brown, a populist white male senator from a must-win battleground state is an afterthought in the presidential sweepstakes. It’s why Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a runner-up to be Obama’s running mate in 2008, quickly jumped on the Clinton bandwagon instead of pursuing any national ambitions. On Bernstein’s list of 16 possible challengers, 15 are white and nine are white males. That makes many of them untenable standard-bearers in the modern Democratic Party.

Of course, being a white male is an “identity” also. As it says here, people who vote Republican tend to be older, whiter, wealthier, and much more conservative than the public at large. See also this new research from Pew, showing that the demographic groups that strongly identify with the Republican Party are Mormons; white evangelical Protestants; white southerners; white men; whites; and people aged 69-86. I’d call that an identity problem.

But old white wingnuts are dedicated voters, which everyone else (alas) is not. Does “everyone else” need a gimmick to be inspired to vote?

It isn’t that simple. The real reason Hillary Clinton has been crowned Miss Inevitable is that, for whatever reason, Democratic Party insiders have decided she’s going to win, and news media go along with this. I don’t think her support in the base is as strong as polls might show. Polls this early are all about party loyalty and name recognition; Hillary Clinton has name recognition running over, but Martin O’Malley has no name recognition outside of Maryland. And there is no leftie media/think tank infrastructure supporting a backbench of wannabee candidates as there is on the Right; O’Malley is on his own to get attention.

I like O’Malley, and I like Sherrod Brown, too, and would happily support either one over HRC for the Democratic nomination. And I think a lot of other potential Democratic voters would feel the same way if they ever learn who O’Malley and Brown even are. Tim Kaine, on the other hand, has a history of going squishy at inopportune times; I’m not sure if I would favor him over HRC. I’d have to think about that.

I do run into people on the Web who say they support Clinton because they think it’s time we got a woman president, but I seriously don’t think HRC’s gender will help her much in the general. Likewise race by itself doesn’t get anyone elected; there have been other African-Americans running for President before Barack Obama. A candidate needs more than a gimmick.

Progressives fell in love with Elizabeth Warren because she gives voice to a genuinely progressive perspective, not because she’s female. Notice we don’t exactly genuflect to Diane Feinstein. I honestly believe a white man who said the same things as well as Warren does would be considered a champion of progressivism also. It may be that, all other things being equal, not being a white male might be a small advantage to the Democratic base, but it’s not the primary factor in choosing a candidate. I doubt there’d be many crossover African-American votes for Dr. Ben Carson, for example, right-wing expectations to the contrary.

Kraushaar continues,

Consider: When President Obama was elected in 2008, the Pew Research Center found that 44 percent of whites defined themselves more closely with Democrats, while 42 percent did so with Republicans. In 2014, that two-point deficit for Republicans has transformed into a nine-point advantage. According to Pew, 49 percent of whites now consider themselves Republicans, while just 40 percent view themselves as Democrats.

Yet among minorities, the Democratic advantage has mostly held or increased—even from the high-water mark of 2008 for Democrats. Pew found 81 percent of blacks identified as Democrats in 2008; that proportion is now 80 percent. Democrats have lost some support from Hispanics since Obama’s landslide in 2008, but it’s at higher levels than before Obama’s presidency. In 2014, 56 percent of Latinos identified as Democrats—a larger share than when Democrats swept Congress in 2006 (51 percent). And the fast-growing bloc of Asian-American voters now consider themselves more Democratic than when Obama first took office—in 2008, 57 percent identified with the Democrats, while 65 percent now do. To get these voters to show up, Democrats need to recruit candidates who reflect their newfound diversity. …

But while nominating a diverse slate of candidates is a laudable goal, there’s great risk when a party becomes obsessed with identity over issues. It fuels racial polarization, where one’s party label or positions on issues becomes synonymous with race or ethnicity. There’s less coherent connection among their constituents’ interests—beyond gender or the color of one’s skin. If Clinton runs a biography-focused campaign, it will require her to be more open and authentic—traits she has never demonstrated in her long career in public life.

For all the GOP’s recent internal struggles, the dividing lines within the party have primarily been over policy: tea-partiers against the establishment, Chamber of Commerce rank-and-file versus social conservatives, hawks against Paulites. Among Democrats, the dividing lines are much more personal. If Clinton wins a third straight Democratic presidential term, it will reaffirm the power of identity in American politics. But if she loses, Democrats will find themselves in a messy identity crisis, without many leaders left to turn to.

In other words, Kraushaar assumes that the only reason women and nonwhites are moving away from the Republican Party is that Those People are into “identity” and don’t care about policy, whereas the party whose voting base gets whiter and more XY-chromosome oriented by the second attracts people who are interested in policy.

Let us pause to let the deeper assumption behind that assumption soak in.

Now that we’ve all caught our breath, let’s go on …

I don’t need to repeat to all of you the many kinds of government policy that impact women more than men, the poor more than the wealthy, and nonwhites more than whites. You know this stuff as well as I do. Republicans remain oblivious to these issues, however, no matter how many times they are pointed out to them. It’s like they’re blinded by the white.

Likewise, I think the reasons the Dem base doesn’t reliably turn out to vote, especially in Midterms, has more to do with falling expectations that government will become responsive to their needs, and of course with white male wingnuts are allowed to run everything that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it’s complicated.


Senator Schumer: Stop Being a Schmuck

Democratic Party, Israel

Schumer is up for re-election in 2016, and he seriously needs to be primaried, although off the top of my head I don’t know who might do that. Any New Yorkers reading this ought to let Chuck know we’re watching him.

Here’s the issue:

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, one of Capitol Hill’s most influential voices in the Iran nuclear debate, is strongly endorsing passage of a law opposed by President Barack Obama that would give Congress an avenue to reject the White House-brokered framework unveiled last week.

Here’s  what I wrote Schumer:

“I am seriously disappointed that Sen. Schumer is siding with Republicans on the issue of the pending agreement with Iran. Many of us are getting very tired of our legislators putting the interests of right-wing hawks in Israel over those of the United States, and this is a good example. No end of Middle East experts are saying the agreed-upon framework poses an excellent chance of avoiding war and improving relations between Iran and the United States, and if Bibi Netanyahu doesn’t approve that is not our concern. I realize there are constitutional issues at stake here, but the President’s actions are not without precedent, and it is past time for Democrats to stand together against right-wing extremism and in favor of sanity and peace.”

While in principle I understand there is reason for concern over the reach of executive agreements, such agreements have been made many times by presidents of both parties over the past decades. To suddenly develop scruples now, while so much is at risk and while Congress has largely been taken over by drooling lunatics, shows a serious lapse in judgment, IMO.

I’m gettin’ really tired of this, Chuck.

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